Money Moves

Solid growth

by Adam Philbin

Eleonore Chow, head of agency development, global life Asia-Pacific
Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong)
Photos: Courtesy of Zurich

Finance and insurance giant rides on agility and innovation to get the better of tough times

As investors and consumers look for safer waters amid economic turbulence, companies are looking to sustain business growth by hiring quality talent and exploring innovative channels for growth opportunities.

Part of Zurich Financial Services Group, the world's largest Swiss insurance-based financial services provider, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong) is taking a more rigorous approach to business development this year.

"With a view to strengthening Zurich's market share in Hong Kong, we target to recruit 1,000 agents this year," says Eleonore Chow, head of agency development, global life Asia-Pacific, Zurich Insurance Group (Hong Kong).

A new distribution channel has been developed to expand Zurich's business capability. "We have introduced a first-to-market franchise model—Zurich Insurance Franchise—to further strengthen the group's distribution capacity. The newly launched model and an aggressive recruitment plan will help increase our sales through both higher agent numbers and improved productivity, making Zurich's agency force one of the top five in the local market within three years." says Ms Chow.

Strong foothold

Zurich's swift adaptability and willingness to launch new products and schemes have kept the company in good stead over the years. Despite uncertainties in the global markets, Zurich Financial Services Group continues to post strong profits.

"For the first nine months of 2009, the company posted a business operating profit of USD 4.1 billion with net income of USD 2.2 billion—our 27th consecutive quarter of profitability, as well as our fourth straight increase in profitability since the financial crisis began more than a year ago," Ms Chow reveals.

She believes that the key to Zurich's success has been the company's focus on compliance and its human capital. "Despite the market turbulence, our business results show that we are in a far stronger financial position than ever before. We are well equipped to face future market forces. Our disciplined operating approach and demonstrated growth capabilities make us opportunistic and resilient. We stay true to our brand, and continue to be customer centric to cater to ever-changing customer needs."

People business

The company's people are at the heart of this. "Insurance is a people-oriented industry and quality customer-centric service is the key to success. Therefore, hiring and training professional talents is essential for Zurich's business development," Ms Chow stresses. "Talent management has long been one of Zurich's key initiatives across the world."

In Hong Kong, the company established its New Advisor Development Centre (NADC) in 2004 as the centralised platform for recruiting and training advisers. "The centre's sophisticated, systematic candidate selection process and professional training allow us to identify, recruit and groom the right people for the right positions in accordance with the individuals' competence," says Ms Chow.

The right candidates can expect a comprehensive range of training including classroom sessions, role-play exercises and field observation. "In a bid to build synergy and further enhance ongoing training among our agency force, we established the Zurich Academy in 2006. It helps to equip our people with the necessary skills and up-to-date knowledge for quality services and better protection for our customers," she emphasises.

Talent retention has always been one of the key initiatives of Zurich. "It is as important as recruitment, and so we should continue to invest resources and focus our efforts in retaining our talent," Ms Chow confirms. "By providing our advisers with an ongoing learning environment on the Zurich Academy platform, we help advisers further develop their career with Zurich."

Renowned for its commitment in professional training, Zurich brought home last year an HKMA Award for Excellence in Training 2009 for its coaching programme "Zurich Academy—Catch the Coaching Habit". "The programme was designed with a keen focus on enhancing our senior advisers' coaching skills towards newly joined advisers," Ms Chow explains.

As Zurich forges ahead with its business development plans, recruitment will play a vital role. "It is of great significance that we recruit an agency force with the passion to develop their careers in the field and build long-term relations with customers. This is essential for Zurich's sustainable business growth," says Ms Chow.

Growth factors

  • Recruitment of 1,000 agents in 2010
  • First-to-market franchise model promotes entrepreneurship
  • Talent management a major initiative
  • Operational excellence and financial discipline key to business sustainability

Taken from Career Times 5 February 2010, A3

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